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Pathfinder - Transmuter Wizard Handbook

Disclaimer

I will use content from the core rules, but will intentionally omit any content not published on the official Pathfinder SRD due to the unmanageable volume of non-SRD content, and the wildly varying quality of non-SRD content. If you would like me to write handbooks for specific content not published on the official SRD, please email me and I will consider it on a case-by-case basis. I will use the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks. Also note that many colored items are also links to the Paizo SRD.

Temporary Note: Pathfinder Unchained and Occult Adventures were both recently added to the SRD. I'm excited to explore them, and I am actively working on adding their contents to my collection of handbooks. I appreciate your patience while I make these changes.

Introduction

The Transmuter is a master of enhancement spells and shapechanging. While their role is largely supportive at early levels, higher levels bring a chain of exciting polymorph spells which allow the Transmuter to assume forms for any situation.

To get a good since of Transmuters, be sure that you read my Practical Guide to Polymorph to get a good since of how polymorph works, and how best to use it.

Wizard Class Features

Hit Points: d6 hit points leaves you pretty squishy, but you have a laundry list of defensive options to put in front of your hit points. Because Transmuters spend a lot of time in melee while polymorphed, you will need to spend some resources to address this issue.

Base Attack Bonus: Your lack of base attack bonus hurts when you polymorph, so you become very dependent on your Strength/Dexterity. You won't lose additional attacks because BAB does not provide extra attacks with natural weapons.

Saves: Your only good save is Will, but because Wizards only "need" one ability, you can afford to invest some of your ability score points in Dexterity and Constitution.

Proficiencies: Wizards get very little in the way of proficiencies, but beyond very early levels you won't need them. A light crossbow is an excellent backup weapon for a Wizard, but stay away from Bows unless you put points into Strength.

Skills: Wizards only get 2+ skills, but you get every knowledge skill as a class skill, and your absurd intelligence will give you plenty of skill points to throw around. Remember that permanently increasing your intelligence will give you additional skill points retroactively.

Arcane Bond (Ex or Sp): You have the option of a familiar or a bonded item, and both options have their merits. Keep in mind that you can't use hand-held items while polymorphed because they meld into your form, but your other items continue to function normally while polymorphed.

Arcane School: You picked Transmutation. For information on other schools, see the Wizard School Breakdown For information on the Transmutation school specifically, see below.

Cantrips: Cantrips are amazing at every level. Prestidigitation is often called "minor wish", and Detect Magic will never stop being helpful. At low levels, Acid Splash provides easy, realiable damage.

Scribe Scroll: Scrolls are great for wizards, and giving you the feat for free is nice. Use it to prepare scrolls of spells that you need infrequently so that you can cover all of your bases.

Bonus Feats: 4 extra feats over the course of 20 levels isn't game-breaking, but the Wizard would still be king if he didn't get any of these. The addition of Arcane Discoveries gives wizards a handful of unique and incredibly powerful options in place of metamagic and item crafting feats.

Spells: You have the best spell list in the game, and every new book makes it better. Spells are why you play a wizard.

Transmutation School

Physical Enhancement (Su): The bonus is certainly nice, and it greatly reduces the amount of money you need to spend on a belt. I would recommend constitution since your hit points are terrible, and transmuters spend a lot of time pretending to be a melee monster.

Telekinetic Fist (Sp): Not spectacular compared to similar school powers, but it's bludgeoning damage so you don't have to worry about energy resistance. It also provides you with a combat option at low levels before you can Polymorph.

Change Shape (Sp): Some extra free shapeshifting. The duration is pretty short, so you'll probably want to save this for moving about as something with a special movement type, like flying across a chasm or digging through the wall of a tunnel.

Enhancement School

The Enhancement subschool suffers from duration issues. The buffs are too mediocre to justify their unbearably short durations.

Replacement Powers: Telekinetic Fist and Change Shape.

Augment (Sp): The duration is pretty short until very high levels, but it can be nice to buff the fighter before you jump into combat.

Perfection of Self (Su): Sometimes you need to do a shit load of damage in one round. At those times, buff your strength a whole bunch and stomp on someone. This couples well with Polymorphing into something with Pounce.

Shapechange School

The Shapechange subschool trades your low level attack option for the ability to gain additional natural attacks. This can be fantastic at high levels when you can Polymorph, but it leaves you with very limited options until level 5.

Replaced Power: Telekinetic Fist.

Battleshaping (Su): The real benefit here is using it while shapeshifted. Turn into a Dire Tiger and get a gore attack. Losing telekinetic fist hurts at low levels, especially due to your limited combat options at low level, but this can do some great things for you once you can Polymorph.

Opposing Schools

Abilities

Because Polymorph augments your existing abilities instead of replacing them, it is very important to strike a balance between Intelligence and your physical ability scores. Your scores don't need to be insanely high like a Fighter or a Rogue because they will be augmented, but every point helps.

25 Point Buy 20 Point Buy Elite Array
  • Str:14
  • Dex:14
  • Con:15
  • Int:16
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:7
  • Str:14
  • Dex:14
  • Con:14
  • Int:15
  • Wis:12
  • Cha:7
  • Str:13
  • Dex:12
  • Con:14
  • Int:15
  • Wis:10
  • Cha:8

Unlike most Wizards, Transmuters lose quite a bit by being middle-aged. Polymorph is a young person's game.

Races

Bonuses to Intelligence are nice, but not strictly necessary. Improved saves, bonus physical stats, and defensive abilities are helpful.

Dwarf: Dwarves are a surprisingly good choice for Transmuters. Bonus Constitution and Wisdom make them very durable, ajd a +2 on saves against spells is fantastic. Darkvision is always helpful, but you lose it when you Polymorph.

Elf: Bonus intelligence is great, and the bonus to dexterity and penalty to constitution are roughly equal for our purposes. The +2 bonus to penetrate spell resistance won't come up much since Polymorph doesn't deal with Ppell Resistance. The other benefits are highly situational, but certainly welcome.

Gnome: The bonus to Constitution is nice, but the penalty to strength will hurt your damage. The other racial bonuses do basically nothing for you.

Half-Elf: The flexible ability bonus goes right into Intelligence, but that's really all you get. You won't be multiclassing, and skill focus won't really matter to you. Some of the Half-Elf's alternate racial traits help a bit, but they don't offer anything particularly helpful for a Wizard. Humans are strictly better.

Half-Orc: The only thing you really get is the flexible ability bonus. Half-Elves are better, and Humans are better than Half-Elves.

Halfling: Bonus to dexterity helps with a bad save, and the +1 racial bonus to all saves is nice, but the strength penalty hurts your damage. You don't get anything from the other racial abilities, but Halfling isn't totally awful.

Human: The flexible ability bonus can go in any of your physical ability scores, but I recommend Strength. Your bonus feat can be used for a lot, but I would recommend Toughness so that you have lots of hit points even at first level.

Traits

Skills

Between traits and our 2+int skill ranks, we have lots of fantastic options.

Feats

Transmuters need feats a bit more than many Wizards in order to maximize their abilities in combat.

General Feats

See the Feats section of my Practical Guide to Polymorph.

Item Creation Feats

Metamagic Feats

Arcane Discoveries

Wizards can take an Arcane Discovery in place of a regular feat or Wizard bonus feat.

Weapons

Weapons aren't your first choice, but they're useful at very low levels.

Armor

If you need AC, you're doing something wrong. Still, it doesn't hurt to get some cheap protection. Keep in mind that Mage Armor is generally your best bet when you need AC, but Mage Armor isn't always on.

Cross-Classing and Prestige Classes

Don't, unless you have a specific concept in mind. If you must multiclass, try very hard to not give up spellcaster levels. Also keep in mind that classes which give you spellcasting do not allow you to learn spells for free when you gain levels.

Example Build - Master Transmographist

Form of... a Dire Tiger!

The best shapeshifters in the game, Transmuters get every Polymorph spell written, and get access to them faster than anyone but Druids. With careful character choices and a few items, the Transmuter can turn into a combat machine rivaling even the best Fighters.

This build takes a while to build momentum, but starting at level 5 you come screaming into combat, where you can stand alongside the best of fighters.

We will give up the Illusion and Necromancy schools. Evocation doesn't give us much in the long term, but it gives us some options at low levels before we can polymorph. In addition, we will use the Shapechange subschool in order to get the Battleshaping school ability.

Abilities

We will assume the 25-point buy abilities suggested above, but the other suggested abilities can also use this build without any problems.

Race

Because we want to survive our role on the battlefield, we're going to use the Dwarf for this build. This changes very little about our character options, so if you want to play a Human you can use the same build and take Toughness as your Human bonus feat.

Skills

With 16 intelligence, we only get 5 skills, so we really need to pick

Traits

Deft Dodger and Reactionary. All of our saves will be excellent, and we will have a nice bonus to initiative.

Levels

Level Feat(s) Notes and Tactics New Spells
1 - Wizard
  • Dodge
  • Scribe Scroll*

Arcane Bond (Familiar: Weasel), Battleshaping

First level is hard for you. Your AC is bad, even with Dodge, but you have 10 hit points. Because you have decent dexterity and strength, grab a stack of javelins to throw. Your spells won't do a lot of damage, so save them for buffing you party. Bring Acid Splash for enemies with high AC.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Protection from Evil
  • Mage Armor
  • Enlarge Person
  • Feather Fall
  • Magic Weapon
2 - Wizard

Level 2 is very boring. Stick to your level 1 tactics.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Shield
  • Obscuring Mist
3 - Wizard
  • Toughness

The combination of Magic Weapon, Enlarge Person, and Bull's Strength will do a lot to buff your fighter, which will help him do the damage which you hope to be doing in a few levels.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Scorching Ray
  • Bull's Strength
4 - Wizard

Nothing really exciting, but you pick up some situationally useful buff spells.

Ability Score Increase: Constitution (17 to 18)

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Resist Energy
  • Darkvision
5 - Wizard
  • Power Attack
  • Arcane Discovery: Multimorph*

Physical Enhancement +2.

Finally! Time to go to work! Beast Shape I lets you turn into a Deinonychus and murder things. Without the Beast Shape bonuses, you should have a total of around 41 hit points (not bad at all), which is enough to keep you in the fight for a while. Mage Armor should still work while Polymorphed, and coupled with dodge your dino form should have 19 AC (not counting items or other spells like Shield and Protection from Evil), and your saves are fortitude +5, Reflex +6, and Will +6 (before items and racial bonus against spells). Aside from your low AC, you're fairly durable. Your damage is respectable, and Power Attack adds a couple points.

Keep in mind that you don't get pounce yet, but once you're in reach you get 5 attacks. If you have someone handy to cast Magic Fang, you will get a ton of extra damage out of it.

Multimorph is difficult to use at this level because the duration of our spells is so short, but it's great for changing into a bird and flying away when combat takes a turn for the worse. You could also polymorph into a Dire Rat, sneak in, then Multimorph into a Deinonychus to charge your enemies from behind.

Don't forget to use Battleshaping to add additional natural attacks (like a Gore) to your Deinonychus form. Because you don't get a lot of damage out of power attack, you need to capitalize on your number of attacks.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Beast Shape I
  • Haste
6 - Wizard

Nothing really exciting, but you pick up some more spells.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Displacement
  • Heroism
7 - Wizard
  • Defensive Combat Training

Beast Shape II brings us a lot of great things, but the most important is Pounce. Beast Shape into a Dire Tiger, pounce on things, and throw a pile of damage dice. Deinonychus still gets more attacks, but the stat bonuses are considerably greater for chaging to a Large creature, so the Dire Tiger is a better choice.

Dire Tiger also has Grab, which is great to use on physically weak targets like spellcasters. Maintaining a grapple deals whatever damage was dealt by your initial Grab attack, so you get to apply your claw damage every time you maintain your grapple. Defensive Combat Training will increase your CMD, which makes it very difficult for your targets to escape your grapple.

Don't forget to use Battleshaping to add additional natural attacks (like a Gore) to your Dire Tiger form.

Favored class bonus: 1 Extra Hit Point

  • Beast Shape II